When seated in the great room of Jim and Adrienne Davis' rambling Howard County home overlooking seven acres of bucolic meadowland, it is hard to visualize the rancher that was, and the couple's reason for buying it in the first place.
"The house was as ugly as could be," said Adrienne Davis, 56, who works for the Project Literary Program of the Howard County Public Library system. "It was a brown brick rancher with dark brown trim — drab. We bought it for the view."
Coming from a two-story home in Columbia, the Davises desired a more rural area and, perhaps more importantly, one-floor living. No single lot in the beautiful Highland area of horse farms, creosote fences and rolling hills seemed to satisfy them. And then, one day in 2007, their real estate agent found the right piece of property complete with the drab rancher plunked down at the end of a long drive.
The couple paid $800,000 for the house and property. Then, the work began.
Bob Kaplan, principal of Kaplan Architecture LLC, was hired to design a casual, albeit elegant structure where every room would have windows with a view. While the original rancher was gutted, the foundation and the brick siding remained. Further construction created, in essence, one very large addition — a single story at the front, dropping with the terrain to create two stories in the back. Beige stucco was then applied to the entire exterior, including the brick portion. The result was a one-level contemporary home with a columned front porch.
The Davises used Ken Mauck of Mauck Construction & Renovations to complete their rural dream home and although the cost was considerable, it was not a surprise since the couple knew what they wanted, as well as what to expect.
The surprise here is the interior, which despite being only 30 feet deep, seems to ramble on and on, with the width coming in at 107 feet. True to the couple's request for one-floor living, the four-bedroom, five-bath design features the master suite on the far end of the main floor — once the original garage. The other bedrooms — two of which are kept for the couple's son and daughter, both away at graduate school — are on the lower level, along with a spacious family room.
The home's tasteful, yet clutter-free decor features standout eclectic pieces. In the great room, which Jim Davis, 59, jokes has more windows than walls, a standard-sized Brunswick pool table commands one area of open space under a 10-foot, modified cathedral ceiling. A solid teak dining table and six matching chairs rest on random-width maple flooring near a contemporary, L-shaped leather sofa. High-efficiency, low-e glass windows look out onto a picturesque backyard vista with a variety of trees.
The windows spill over into the kitchen, where cherry cabinets with a deep peppercorn finish offer dramatic contrast to the gleaming porcelain schoolhouse tiles that form the backsplashes. The granite-topped square island provides ample workspace for baking.
"We designed the house for [the furnishings] we had," said Jim Davis, 59 and the executive vice president of Human Genome Sciences in Rockville.
Heading toward the dining room, which has been built on the footprint of the original rancher, the ceilings are lower but nonetheless elegant. The room has been decorated with a traditional suite of table and chairs in ash wood with a cherry finish that sits on a hand-loomed rug.
The couple replaced all of the windows in the original sunroom, where wicker and wood furniture are paired with slate flooring. The original ceiling of the porch was insulated before installing a knotty pine, upward sloping ceiling.
Also included on the first level is an office, a studio and a formal living room.
In considering the perks of life in rural Howard County, the Davises easily speak in terms of "peaceful, relaxing and contemplative."
That which describes them best, however, is also the essence of their dream, as Adrienne Davis said: "It's our style; we have access to the land we love and to the deer and foxes."
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Making the dream
Dream element: The land. The Davises' home sits on seven acres of pasture. The custom-built rancher boasts 5,000 square-feet of interior space, where the couple can enjoy one-level living with ample room for guests in a carpeted lower level that includes four bedrooms, and a second family room. "By making the upstairs sufficient for all of our needs, we created a huge downstairs area," said Jim Davis.
Dream inspiration: The couple worked around a two-fold concept for the interior decor. First and foremost, they wanted windows throughout the house — rooms that would feature more windows than walls — in order to enjoy the beautiful scenery outdoors. Solar window shades add to the clean look while providing unobstructed views out and privacy within. Second, they wanted to work around the furniture pieces they already owned, including some of Jim Davis' handmade tables.
Dream design: Creating an entire wing addition to the original rancher, the Davises chose an open floor plan for this space, where kitchen, sitting area with TV and fireplace and, finally, the pool table area include all visitors for ease of entertaining.